Capturing Tacit Architectural Knowledge Using the Repertory Grid Technique

Dan Tofan, Matthias Galster, and Paris Avgeriou
University of Groningen, Netherlands
Design Traceability

Background: Knowledge about the architecture of a software-intensive system tends to vaporize easily. This leads to increased maintenance costs. Objective: We explore a new idea: utilizing the repertory grid technique to capture tacit architectural knowledge. Particularly, we investigate the elicitation of design decision alternatives and their characteristics. Method: To study the applicability of this idea, we performed an exploratory study. Seven independent subjects applied the repertory grid technique to document a design decision they had to take in previous projects. Then, we interviewed each subject to understand their perception about the technique. Results: We identified advantages and disadvantages of using the technique. The main advantage is the reasoning support it provides; the main disadvantage is the additional effort it requires. Also, applying the technique depends on the context of the project. Conclusion: Using the repertory grid technique is a promising approach for fighting architectural knowledge vaporization.